Socrates asked questions: let us do the same.

Augusto Boal

War!!! Yes, the world is at war… at least, since I can remember, since I was a child and heard my father, coming hurriedly back home from work, announcing to our family: - "Paris has fallen!" Where did it fall? Who had pushed it? Why? What wrongs had Paris done, so hideous as to deserve it’s falling? I could not understand, I was a child – war belonged to grown-ups, not to kids.

Last week, in New York, violence has been more spectacular than ever before in History, more theatrical and graphic, esthetically frightening, extremely cruel, inhuman calamity: we were used to see such catastrophes in movies, not in real life. Pity and terror! That is why it became more visible than other cruelties that have devastated villages in Africa since always, murdered thousands of men and women in Latin America and Asia not so long ago, and in Europe, very recently.

The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo are still looking for their missing children: every Thursday at noon, they walk in circle (what a dreadful symbol!), showing photos, talking about their children, as though they were still alive, ready to come back home, before night falls. High noon, every Thursday, they turn round and round... and find them not. In Buenos Aires and in many other cities; in Argentina and in many other countries, Mothers of May are still looking for their missing, beloved ones...

Granada, Panama, Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay - to speak only of my continent, only of the last three decades! – were also victims of merciless brutality and lost thousands of lives. Certainly, our own dictators have done it: but who financed coups d´État?

Looking at TV, seeing shattered New York on the screen, dialoguing with friends, reading books, I cannot understand: I still persevere in believing that human kind is human - or can become so, if we work hard to that effect! But our eyes are seeing the very opposite: humankind is not kind, humans are not human!  Let’s face the truth!

Who has perpetrated that horrifying crime against Humanity last week? Whoever they are, the surviving criminals must be punished according to the Law, when they will be judged, their guilt being established! This must be clear: no one should be punished only because "they look like…" or "they are of the same kind…" No punishment should go beyond the person of the criminal, no punishment should touch their families, their race, their nationality, their faith.

We hear cries of revenge - an eye for an eye! – retaliation. We hear about houses of prayer being attacked, innocent people aggressed in the streets, in revenge for the destroyed towers, but… we must remember that the Law of Talion proclaims the need of a Judge to make Justice; Justice needs a Tribunal; a Tribunal needs certitudes and seeks truth! Truth is therapeutic!

Talion is Judgement, not Revenge! Yugoslavian genocides are now being judged by International Courts. Even Nazis that promoted holocausts; Nazis, who killed millions of civilians and industrialized Death; even Nazis were entitled to be tried at Nuremberg! If we want to have lasting Justice and not episodic Vengeance, we need Tribunals – no individual, no country, should make justice by their own hands, as it was done before the Law of Talion! We shall not go back to barbarian times, we are civilized people… or want to be!

At the US Congress, as reported by the NY Times last Sunday, September 16th, Congressmen are discussing the possibility of giving permission to CIA agents to kill foreigners in foreign countries; these killings would be done, of course, without any kind of trial, debate or demonstration of evidences, without any right of defense – killings perpetrated at the sole discretion of killers. CIA would be allowed to recruit common criminals to execute those assassinations.

Is that what is meant by the word "retaliation"?  Does "retaliation" mean that the offended should become criminals, like the offenders? Should other countries do the same - since all countries are equally sovereigns! - should they allow their Secret Services to kill foreigners in foreign countries, including US citizens in US territory?

Should the Mothers of May become terrorists like the ones who killed their children? Should the Mothers of May carry grenades and not photos, bombs and not flowers?

Should the tortured political prisoners, all over the world, rise from their graves, like the ghosts in the Banquet of Macbeth, and hunt their killers?

We are living times of perplexities! Reason alone will be able to humanize our emotions. We must think with our hearts, I am sure – that is the right way to think, the right way to act: with our hearts! But we shall never forget that we have heads. We are capable of thinking, of understanding.

Lawmakers in the US are considering the possibility of approving a Law to legalize Outlaws and stimulate assassinations. Socrates would have asked: what are you going to do?

(Mid September 2001?)

*) Talion (lat.), die, Vergeltung von Gleichem mit Gleichem bzw, Vergeltung durch Bestrafung an dem Schaden stiftenden Körperteil (z.B. Ausreißen der Zunge eines Verräters).

(Aus: Das Große Fischer Lexikon in Farbe, 1975)